A Map of Mental Health

Mental health treatment trends in the US showed increase of childhood mental care

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) You often hear calls for increased mental health care in this country, especially when tragedies develop. A new study aimed to examine trends and changes in mental health treatment in America.

The researchers looked at US mental health visits for people of all ages from 1995 to 2010.

This study showed that during this time, mental health care for young people increased at a faster rate than mental health care for adults, and much of that mental health care was provided by nonpsychiatrist physicians.

"Speak to a doctor if mental health issues are disrupting daily life."

Led by Mark Olfson, MD, MPH, of the Department of Psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, this new study aimed to examine national trends for in-office mental health treatment.

"Despite evidence of the increasing use of psychotropic medications, little is known about the broader changes in the delivery of outpatient mental health treatment to children, adolescents, and adults," Dr. Olfson and colleagues explained.

These researchers used data from the 1995 to 2010 National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys to measure visits that resulted in a diagnosis of a mental disorder, the prescription of a psychotropic medication (the type of medication used to treat mental conditions) or visits that involved or supplied psychotherapy or psychiatrist care.

During this time, Dr. Olfson and team examined 446,542 such visits.

The researchers found that between 1995-1998 and 2007-2010, visits that resulted in a mental disorder diagnosis increased faster for youths under the age of 21 than for adults age 21 or older. The rate of mental disorder diagnoses visits increased from 7.78 to 15.30 visits per 100 for youths compared to an increase from 23.23 to 28.48 visits per 100 for adults.

Psychiatrist visits increased at a faster rate for youths as well during this time, from 2.86 to 5.71 visits, compared to adult rates that increased from 10.22 to 10.87 visits.

Psychotherapy visits increased among youths from 2.25 to 3.17 visits, but decreased among adults from 8.37 to 6.36 visits.

Similar rates of increases in psychotropic medication visits were seen for both youths (8.35 to 17.12 visits) and adults (30.76 to 65.90 visits).

During the years 2007-2010, only 27.4 percent of child visits (age 13 or younger), 47.9 percent of adolescent visits (ages 14 to 20) and 36.6 percent of adult visits (age 21 or older) that resulted in a mental disorder diagnosis were visits to a psychiatrist.

"Compared with adult mental health care, the mental health care of young people has increased more rapidly and has coincided with increased psychotropic medication use," Dr. Olfson and colleagues wrote.

"A great majority of mental health care in office-based medical practice to children, adolescents, and adults is provided by nonpsychiatrist physicians calling for increased consultation and communication between specialties," they wrote.

This study was published online November 27 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Review Date: 
November 29, 2013
Last Updated:
December 2, 2013